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Why your Nintendo Switch might seem borked after the Bluetooth update

Why your Nintendo Switch might seem borked after the Bluetooth update


You’ll need to fully shut down to fix — and maybe try a different headset

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An image of a Nintendo Switch on a table with its kickstand extended.
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Did the Nintendo Switch’s surprise Bluetooth audio update yesterday make your handheld worse instead of better? That’s what happened to me: instead of inviting me to the magical world of wireless audio, it repeatedly failed to detect my headsets and connect to them reliably.

Worse, it suddenly took up to 30 seconds to wake my Switch from sleep! That’s a huge pain in the ass, considering one of the Switch’s single greatest strengths is how you can instantly jump back into a game.

But after a whole bunch of testing, I think I know what’s going on — and if you’re seeing the same thing, a full Switch shutdown seems to offer a partial fix.

It’s not quite that simple, though, so read on for the details.

The Nintendo Switch Bluetooth pairing problem

To pair a Bluetooth headset, you’re supposed to go to System Settings, scroll down to Bluetooth Audio, set your Bluetooth device to pairing mode, tap Pair Device on your Switch, then select your device once it appears on the Switch’s screen.

If it pairs, you’re set! If it fails because your device wasn’t ready to pair, you might still be okay. Simply put it in pairing mode again, and tap the Search Again button on your Switch.

Two problems: ghost pairing and wake delays

Problem #1. But if it fails to pair properly — if your Switch thinks it paired, if your headset is blinking like it’s paired, but isn’t routing audio and isn’t showing up on your Switch screen as a paired headset — you might be in for a world of hurt. The Switch’s process does not fail gracefully, and you may run into all kinds of error messages afterward.

After that point, my Switch sometimes won’t even bother to keep scanning for Bluetooth devices. It’ll pop up an “Unable to find Bluetooth audio devices” message the moment I hit the scan button.

Problem #2. And if you’ve run into a ghost pairing issue, you might experience a problem with the Switch waking from sleep as well — because it appears the Switch tries to fire up Bluetooth audio before it wakes the screen and controllers.

Here’s what the Nintendo Switch looks like with no Bluetooth audio devices paired or remembered whatsoever. It wakes pretty quickly, right?

But once I pair a headset to the Switch, it’s no longer instant: the screen takes a little longer to light up, and it doesn’t immediately recognize my button presses that let me unlock the system.

Now, here’s what it’s like when the Switch fails to pair properly with a waiting headset:

(Why yes, my eyes do look scary when they’re bugging out, thanks for noticing.)

How to partially fix Nintendo Switch Bluetooth

You need to fully shut down the Switch, and I mean fully shut it down. I restarted it loads of times, and it didn’t seem to help.

  • Tap the power button and wait however long it takes for your screen to turn on
  • Unpair and forget any Bluetooth devices
  • Hold down the power button for four seconds until you see Power Options
  • Tap Power Options then hit Turn Off
  • Wait a beat, then power on your Switch again

Sometimes, simply shutting off my Switch was enough to fix my ghost pairing issue (where I saw a 10–30-second delay when waking the system) and let me start pairing Bluetooth headsets again. I was able to get my Wyze Buds Pro to pair on the very first try, a headset that repeatedly failed to connect at all last night.

But other times, it still wouldn’t do an initial pair — and as soon as I saw that “Unable to find Bluetooth audio devices” message, my Switch would take ages to wake from sleep once again. Your mileage may vary: in case it matters, I’m using the v2 of the original Switch, the one that added more battery life.

Some Bluetooth devices may simply not work

And if you’re trying to restore the full wake-up speed the Switch is normally known for, you’ll also need to unpair and forget any Bluetooth devices before you do the full shutdown. When I simply unpaired a Bluetooth headset but left it in the Bluetooth menu, I still saw the small delay. Same thing if I shut down first then unpaired and forgot the headset second.

My guess is the Switch leaves its Bluetooth audio feature turned on whenever it thinks you’re going to use it, but you can force it off by removing those devices and initiating a full shutdown.

We’ve asked Nintendo whether these are known issues and whether we can expect fixes in a future firmware update. We’ll let you know what we hear.